It’s Complicated

I’ve noticed a developing trend in drinking as of late – cocktails are turning into quite a complicated matter.  They are no longer simple combinations of liquor and a mixer or two; today they are precisely created concoctions of flavor-infused spirits, herb flavorings, and various foodstuffs.  Showcasing these elaborations are drink menus that are as complex and specific as their restaurant counterparts.

Simplicity is a cornerstone of my drinking philosophy.  Traditional cocktails are fine and good; I too enjoy an Old Fashioned or Manhattan on occasion.  But more often than not, a single spirit – prepared neat or on the rocks – is usually a better choice.  Ordering a drink should not require extensive instructions; and if your cocktail contains more than three ingredients, chances are it’s not worth ordering.

Yet the more I read the more it seems a transformation is occurring: barmen are becoming like chefs, possessing extensive training and complicated equipment to match.  Once happy to take your order with a smile and perhaps a wisecrack, today’s mixologists are stepping out from behind the bars to invent cocktail recipes and preparation techniques.

With these inventions comes increasingly mechanized barware.  The jigger, strainer, shaker, and corkscrew, those long time workhorses are overshadowed by rotary evaporators, carbonators, and centrifugation devices.  Bars are like chemistry laboratories complete with white coats.  And the simple drinker, seeking a humble beer or dram of whisky, is left scratching his head in confusion.

Perhaps this current trend reflects the growing professionalization of bartenders – those who seek to make a name and career for themselves, again much like chefs.  Or perhaps it is an unnecessary complication, like the cocktail umbrella, to a simple pleasure.  Motorized machines and culinary institute-like training may be a nice diversion, and maybe that’s the point.  To some, the intricate preparation, measurement, and mixing is itself enjoyable.  But I’d rather keep things simple: a glass, an ice cube, and a measure of scotch.  No instructions required.

Published in: on October 20, 2010 at 10:28 pm  Comments Off on It’s Complicated  
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